“Why wouldn’t you want to do it?” says Traci, chatting to an interviewer off-camera as her name pops up inside a running caption at the bottom of the screen. “There’s no cash, no flights. Just one million reward points.” Cut to Traci and her husband, Dean, carefully being led out of the back of a white van in a vineyard by two burly men. Dean asks his wife whether she’s wearing a new perfume. Traci points out that her husband is not smelling her. Hilarity ensues. The van leaves.

Have Points, Will Travel, follows Traci and her bumbling husband as they attempt to reach a mystery destination using only one million special Wyndham reward points. A series of five short clips intended to replace the frequently bland advertisements that occupy the home page of the in-room television, its creation is also an acknowledgement among operators that they need to think harder about how they entertain guests. This means making the most out of whatever assets are to hand.

“It’s no secret that in-room hotel TV programming is boring,” says Noah Brodsky, Wyndham’s senior vicepresident of worldwide loyalty and engagement at the launch of the new series. “Wyndham has hundreds of thousands of guests staying in its hotels every night. That’s hundreds of thousands of daily opportunities to connect in a way that’s not only fun and fresh but that keeps Wyndham uppermost in people’s minds when they travel.”

Future vision

One of the signature ways by which an operator can define its brand(s) is using the latest and best technology to deliver important services.

The television was traditionally the entertainment centrepiece. Many guests’ first encounters with pay-per-view channels and digital radio was while sitting on a bed, staring at a vast, flickering screen.


This situation had changed markedly in the early 2010s, when film and television content began to migrate en masse to laptop, smartphone and tablets. Suddenly, it hardly mattered whether a hotel could offer pay-perview access to a premium film channel when guests could bring whole libraries of cinematic classics with them on their phone. Now, it is more important that operators provide free and stable Wi-Fi that to enable guests to maintain the small ecosystems of devices in their suitcases. A number of major operators, including IHG, Marriott and Hyatt, are integrating streaming services into hotel rooms across their portfolios.

Streaming to a TV screen at home has become a very common experience… Guests want to view their favourite content on a big screen at home as well as on the road.

The idea is to make entertainment as seamless an experience for guests as it would be in their own home.

“Streaming to a TV screen at home has become a very common experience,” said Jeff Bzdawka, Hyatt’s senior vice-president for global hotel technology in a recent interview with Hotel News Now. “Nearly two thirds of homes have streaming subscriptions. Guests want to view their favourite content on a big screen at home as well as on the road.”

Hyatt has responded to this demand with its new World of Hyatt app, which enables guests to log in to their personal entertainment accounts easily. Guests can stream whatever they want in their room, whenever they want, without being confined to a single brand in partnership with the hotel. “While Netflix might be the largest and most popular [streaming service], it still accounts for about 40% of that traffic,” added Bzdawka. “There are many other channels, literally hundreds of other apps, and this helps us support entertainment or use it to connect business travellers.”

Collaborating with Sonifi Solutions, guests that download the application on to their device can use the company’s Staycast technology to stream content from their personal entertainment subscriptions on to the television in their room.

“Guests expect to have the same or better experiences than what they have at home,” explained Ahmad Ouri, Sonifi’s CEO, to Skift in April. “Sonifi was the best partnership with which to collaborate and bring that personalised seamless experience without limitations, and is open to guests with Apple, Windows or Android devices.”

A similar system is also being employed by Marriott in partnership with Enseo, a software development company that specialises in in-room entertainment systems.

Voice recognition

Streaming services are not the only in-room entertainment innovations operators are experimenting with. In December, Wynn Resorts announced plans to co-operate with Amazon to install an Echo – the latter’s smart speaker that houses its voice assistant, ‘Alexa’ – into each of its 4,748 hotel rooms by the summer of this year.

If I have ever seen anything in my 49 years of developing resorts that has made the job of delivering a perfect experience to guests easier and help the firm get to another level, it is Alexa.

The intention is for guests to control not only their televisions but also the room’s curtains, lights and temperature, without even raising a finger. “Technology has always played an important part in Wynn Resorts,” explained the operator’s CEO, Steve Wynn. “The thing that Amazon has done with Alexa is perfect. “If I have ever seen anything in my 49 years of developing resorts that has made the job of delivering a perfect experience to guests easier and help the firm get to another level, it is Alexa.”

In the UK, Village Hotels is also rolling out Amazon Echo Dots – a smaller version of the standard Echo unit across its properties to answer any questions from customers about their stay, including the opening times for in-house facilities, and what the local nightlife is like. Voice recognition technology is being paired with the installation of 70in interactive screens in hotel lobbies.

“As technology continues to evolve, customers expect a consistently seamless service,” said Village Hotels commercial director Rob Paterson in a recent interview with The Caterer.

“That’s why Village Hotels has chosen to invest significantly in giving guests a truly multichannel experience where they have access to all the services and information they require, right at their fingertips.”

Certainly, this kind of collaboration between technology firms and hotel operators serves both parties admirably: the former are able to showcase the abilities of their latest products in a controlled setting, while the latter can augment the in-room entertainment experience and more in a relatively inexpensive way.

If this relationship continues, the hotel room may become the next great testbed for other, more potent forms of digital entertainment. In that future, as in the past, the guests will be the first to benefit.

Keyless entry

Another area in which technology is transforming the hotel room is keyless entry. In a growing number of properties, metal keys or key cards have been replaced by smart wristbands or dedicated mobile apps. The latter, based on the Bluetooth technology available on most smartphones, enables guests to open and close their room doors with the touch of a button. Starting in 2014, with the introduction of Starwood’s SPG Keyless system, keyless entry has since become a bespoke option for properties belonging to several major operators, including Marriott, Hyatt and InterContinental.

Wristbands have also grown in popularity. Radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology precludes the need for guests to carry keycards, which can be easily lost or misplaced. As well as enjoying popularity among a select group of smaller hotel operators, wristbands are also a popular option for resorts. Disney is just one such firm currently deploying the technology in its hotels and resorts, using wristbands for keyless entry as well as for checking in to rides, and to open and close lockers.